Better bids for the NUSP
The NUSP team recently assessed over 170 bids for contracts and applications to the Panel of Service Providers. We were really pleased with the high quality of many submissions, but also surprised at the number of tenders that showed little understanding of the purpose of the exercise.
We realise that it’s hard to keep business running and at the same time put time and effort into bidding for work. So, based on our experience, we feel it may be helpful to give some advice to potential bidders for future NUSP contracts.
Read the Terms of Reference closely. Sounds too obvious, doesn’t it? But we saw many submissions where the bidders clearly had not read the ToRs. Companies bid for construction work even though the tender was for planning services. Others offered engineering consultancy when what we needed was community facilitation.
We put a lot of effort into drawing up ToRs – we do this because we have to specify which services we need. If you misinterpret or ignore the ToRs, your bid won’t match our requirements and you’re already heading for a very low score.
Set out your own approach and methodology. We ask you for details of how you propose carrying out the assignment – your approach (for example, desk-based, field work, action research) and methodology (for example, key informant interviews, aerial photography, household survey and analysis). We ask for this so you have an opportunity to show us how well you have understood the assignment – it’s your chance to impress us with your knowledge and experience. Inserting parts of your profession’s standard form of conract as an example of your approach is not particularly impressive.
The same goes for the practice of simply repeating the ToRs as your methodology. We already know what is in the ToRs. After all, we wrote them.
Be careful with the ‘cut and paste’. Many bid documents include parts transported from elsewhere. Fair enough, ‘cut and paste’ is the busy bidder’s friend. Sections from other documents are easy to spot because they often include the name of the wrong municipality, they talk about a different objective, or the grammar is out of line with the rest of the document. Consequently, they are not clear or easy to understand, and are marked down accordingly. If you do ‘cut and paste’, proofread carefully, amend the errors and make sure it makes sense.
Listen carefully at the briefing. We hold a briefing session for each major NUSP tender. Representatives of the potential bidders have to attend. We spell out the purpose of the tender, what we want to achieve and what we are looking for. It is your chance to ask questions of clarification and to get information. So take advantage of this opportunity – we saw many examples where companies that had attended the briefing still had basic misunderstandings in their bid documents. So listen carefully, and make sure that you (or whoever is writing your bid document) has a thorough understanding of what is required.
That’s it – four simple actions you need to do. We’re not saying these are sure-fire tips for winning, but they certainly will improve the quality of your bid documents and that has to be a step in the right direction.